Gold bars featured in Sen. Bob Menendez bribery case are linked to a 2013 robbery, records show

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Four gold bars connected to the FBI search of Sen. Bob Menendez’s home have direct links to a New Jersey businessman now accused of bribing Menendez, the state’s senior senator, Bergen County prosecutor’s records from a 2013 robbery case show.

The businessman, Fred Daibes, reported to police that he was the victim of an armed robbery in 2013, and he asked police to recover the gold bars stolen from him. Daibes reported that $500,000 in cash and 22 gold bars were stolen, Edgewater, New Jersey, police records show. Police later caught four people with the stolen goods.

To get his property back, Daibes signed “property release forms” certifying the gold bars belonged to him, the records show.

“Each gold bar has its own serial number,” Daibes told investigators in a 2013 transcript made by prosecutors and police who recovered — and returned to Daibes — the stolen valuables. “They’re all stamped…you’ll never see two stamped the same way.”

In the bribery indictment against Menendez and Daibes this year, prosecutors included photos of some of the alleged bribes found in the Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, home of Menendez and his wife, Nadine, including gold bars.

The serial numbers of four gold bars described in the bribery indictment appear to be exact matches to four of the gold bars Daibes certified as having been stolen and returned to him in the 2013 robbery case.

The FBI said that during its search of the home it found two gold bars with matching serial numbers, and found photos of two other bars with matching numbers on Nadine’s phone. The FBI determined that Nadine gave a jeweler those two bars “to be sold.”

For example, a Swiss Bank Corp. gold bar with serial number 590005 that the FBI said it seized from Menendez’s home had also been reported stolen by Daibes — and returned to him — a decade earlier. Daibes’ signature and initials appear on the evidence log, which included each specific gold bar with its corresponding serial number.

On Wednesday, two days after initial publication of this article, Menendez told NBC News, "Your report is factually inaccurate and we look forward to proving it at court."

Federal investigators allege Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., received bribes in the form of gold bars. (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York)
Federal investigators allege Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., received bribes in the form of gold bars. (U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York)

“All of this spells bad news for Sen. Menendez, because the chain of custody — it appears — is going to be really easy to prove up,” NBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos said.

It was November 2013 when Daibes, a millionaire developer, told police that he had been the victim of a gunpoint robbery in his penthouse apartment in Edgewater. He said he was tied to a chair as the thieves made off with cash, gold and jewelry.

The four suspects were quickly caught and later pleaded guilty. Daibes attended court proceedings as the victim. On Dec. 13, 2013, Daibes signed documents to get his property back, including the gold bars.

Cevallos said that if Daibes, in fact, gave gold bars to Bob and Nadine Menendez, that alone does not prove the crime of bribery.

“Was there a quid pro quo? Was it in exchange for the senator’s official acts — or promises of the same?” Cevallos said.

The FBI said the quid pro quo between Menendez and Daibes included efforts by Menendez to influence the New Jersey U.S. attorney’s office, which in 2018 was investigating Daibes in relation to a separate crime of bank fraud.

Daibes and Menendez, along with other co-defendants Nadine Menendez, Wael Hana and Jose Uribe, all deny any wrongdoing and have pleaded not guilty.

“The allegations against me are just that — allegations,” Menendez said at a news conference after the bribery indictment was unsealed. In a statement about the ties of the gold bars found at his home to a decade-old robbery, counsel for Menendez said he “will not be commenting on anonymous media leaks designed to prejudice his right to a fair trial. He looks forward to addressing the government’s claims in court, based on a complete record of the evidence.”

Menendez has denied taking payoffs from Daibes even though prosecutors allege testing shows Daibes’ fingerprints and DNA are on some of the tens of thousands of dollars in cash found in Menendez’s home.

“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said.

Menendez and his wife are also accused of taking payoffs from Hana, a businessman, the FBI said. In exchange, investigators alleged, Menendez used his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to help Hana win an exclusive halal meat inspection contract with the Egyptian government. They also said that in exchange for bribes, Menendez tried to assist the government of Egypt with arms sales.

Prosecutors said Menendez also accepted a Mercedes and other payoffs from Uribe. In exchange, prosecutors said, Menendez offered to try to help Uribe with an ongoing state attorney general’s investigation.

As for Daibes’ separate bank fraud case, a federal judge in New Jersey threw out a plea deal in which he pleaded guilty to one count and faced a sentence of probation after the new bribery charges came to light.

An attorney for Daibes said he is confident his client “will be exonerated when all the evidence is heard.”

“The allegations against me are just that — allegations,” Menendez said at a news conference in his home state in September after the bribery indictment was unsealed.

CORRECTION (Dec. 5, 2023, 2:23 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated where the four bars linked to the Daibes robbery were found. Two were found during the FBI search of Menendez's Engelwood Cliffs home. His wife, Nadine, had given the other two bars to a jeweler to sell, according to the indictment. All four bars were not found in the senator's home.

CORRECTION (Dec. 6, 2023, 3:23 p.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the location of Menendez’s home. It is Englewood Cliffs, not Clifton. (An earlier correction also misstated the location.)

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